EXCLUSIVE: Tonight marks a significant first for Bunim/Murray Productions: its long-running hit The Challenge, which launched 25 years ago on MTV, will debut for the first time on broadcast TV. CBS will follow its summer hit Big Brother with the debut of The Challenge: USA, a spinoff from B/M and MTV Entertainment Studios that features players from CBS’ unscripted lineup of BB, Survivor, Love Island and The Amazing Race. (For an exclusive first look of the series, watch the video above).
And no one is less worried about diluting the franchise than Julie Pizzi, the president of Bunim/Murray who has played an active role in The Challenge‘s expansion since it was first spun off in 1998 from The Real World and Road Rules. Besides its long and successful run on MTV, The Challenge recently launched the all-star edition on Paramount+, a first-ever documentary series The Challenge: Untold History, and, of course, the new version for CBS.
“I don’t think anyone knew what it would grow into,” says Pizzi, who worked as a segment producer on the very first Real World/Road Rules Challenge. “It just became bigger than The Real World and Road Rules. It’s the only show of the three on the air in its original incarnation. And the show has gotten so much bigger. The stunts are bigger, the cast is bigger. Chris McCarthy [MTV Entertainment Group CEO] and Nina Diaz [chief creative officer for unscripted entertainment at Paramount Plus/MTV president of content] really set their sights on expanding it on the Paramount Plus platform. They said, ‘okay, we wanna do a Challenge for CBS, and then we want to do The Challenge: UK, The Challenge: Argentina, and The Challenge: Australia. And then we want to take all those winners and other Challenge vets and pull them into a tournament that would be a global tournament that would air all over the world on Paramount Plus.”
Pizzi is bullish about The Challenge finding even more fans on CBS. “The one thing that’s really unique about The Challenge is that it’s the best show that you’re not watching,” she says. “There have been players on this show for 20 years. It’s like the longest running reality soap opera on television. We met CT Tamburello when he did Real World: Paris and he was 19 years old. He has literally been doing The Challenge ever since. So I think for the audience who have also grown up with the show, it’s like they see themselves in these characters. They see them being young and immature and then they find love and they get married and then they have children and they continue to come on the show and compete.”
“I feel like this is like the Marvel universe and we have heroes and villains,” Pizzi continues. “It really has taken 20 years for all of these stories to develop. So we bring back the veterans, people that have been around a long time because the investment from the audience is incredible. They love to see how they’ll fare against all these other reality players that we’ve been bringing into the mix over the last 15 years.”
On The Challenge: USA, players are given $1,000 to start their individual challenge accounts, and must battle to keep and increase their reward. In each episode, an algorithm pairs contestants who will face off to earn money for their accounts by winning challenges or eliminating their opponents. In addition to the $500,000 cash prize, the cast will be competing for a spot on The Challenge: Global Championship that will stream exclusively on Paramount Plus.
The players are: Domenick Abbate (Survivor 36); Azah Awasum (BB23); David Alexander (BB 21, 22); Tasha Fox (Survivor 28, 31); Tyson Apostol (Survivor 18, 20, 27, winner of 40); Kyra Green (Love Island 1); Cashel Barnett (Love Island 1); Alyssa Lopez (BB23); Ben Driebergen (Survivor 35, winner 40); Sarah Lacina (Survivor 28, 34, winner 40); Melvin “Cinco” Holland Jr (Love Island 3); Tiffany Mitchell (BB23); Danny McCray (Survivor 41); Justine Ndiba (Love Island 2); Enzo Palumbo (BB12,22); Cayla Platt (The Amazing Race 33); Xavier Prather (BB23 winner); Cashay Proudfoot (Love Island 3); Leo Temory (The Amazing Race 23, 24, 31); Angela Rummans (BB20); Javonny Vega (Love Island 3); Shannon St. Clair (Love Island 3); James Wallington (The Amazing Race 32 winner); Shan Smith (Survivor41); Kyland Young (BB23); Desi Williams (Survivor 35); Derek Xiao (BB23); and Cely Vasquez (Love Island 2).
T.J. Lavin serves as host while Pizzi and Justin Booth are executive producers of the show. It will premiere tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
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